Tips for Staying Healthy and Safe this Summer

 

MedlinePlus and NIH offer lots of information online to help. We’ve summarized some helpful highlights to get you started.

Sun Exposure and Your Skin

Too much time in the sun is linked to everything from sunburns to heat illness, long-term skin damage, and skin cancer.

You can’t see the sun’s UV (or ultraviolet) rays but they contain a form of radiation that passes through your skin and can damage your skin cells.

If possible, stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest. If you do need to go out in the sun, take steps to be safe. Use and reapply a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and wear UV-protective sunglasses and clothing.

Also, keep an eye out for skin moles or spots that change color, which could be a sign of cancer. Contact your health care provider immediately if you think you may have a cancerous mole.

SOURCE: MedlinePlus: Sun Exposure

Poison Ivy, Oak, & Sumac

Ouch! Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are types of plants with sap or oil that many of us are sensitive to. When our skin touches the sap, it can create itchy rashes and blisters. The rash often doesn’t often start until 12 to 72 hours after contact.

To avoid rashes, try to recognize and stay away from poison ivy, oak, and sumac. Be cautious when you hike or spend time in heavily wooded areas.

If you come in contact with one of these plants, wash your skin with soap right away. If you do get a rash, your pharmacist may recommend over-the-counter medicines to help with itching. Luckily, rashes are not contagious.

If your rash is severe or you notice swelling, contact a health care provider immediately, as that can be a sign of a serious reaction.

SOURCES: MedlinePlus: Poison Ivy, Oak, and Red Sumac; American Academy of Dermatology: Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Opens new window

Dehydration

Our bodies are 90 percent water, so it’s no surprise we need a lot of it to keep going each day. In fact, the average person needs three quarts of water daily to function well.

But when we’re exercising, sweating, or spending time in the sun, we may need more liquid.

Without enough hydration and electrolytes, we can become dehydrated. Signs of dehydration are feeling thirsty, having dark-colored urine, feeling faint or dizzy, and having to urinate less.

If you think you may be dehydrated, try to drink small amounts water over a period of time to prevent throwing up.

Electrolytes—minerals in our bodies that help balance the amount of water—are key to avoiding dehydration. Sports drinks (without caffeine) with electrolytes may help if you have an imbalance.

SOURCES: MedlinePlus: Dehydration; MedlinePlus: Electrolytes

Insect Bites and Stings

At one point or another, you’ve probably experienced a not-so-fun bug bite or sting.

Mosquito and flea bites usually itch. Bee, wasp, and hornet stings and fire ant bites usually hurt.

In general, bug bites and stings are uncomfortable but not life-threatening. However, if you know you are allergic to any insects, like bees or wasps, keep an emergency epinephrine kit handy.

Ticks are usually harmless, but a bite from an infected blacklegged deer tick can lead to Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can cause serious health problems if left untreated. Some early symptoms include fever and chills, headache, joint and muscle pain, and a bull’s eye rash where the tick bit you. After spending time outdoors where there may be ticks, make sure to check yourself, family members, and your pets. If you think you may have Lyme disease, seek medical help immediately.

For mild itching or discomfort from other bug bites or stings, over-the-counter antihistamines, anti-itch creams, and ibuprofen and acetaminophen may help.

To avoid bug bites and stings, use insect repellent according to label instructions, be careful when performing activities outside, wear protective clothing (like long pants or sleeves), and avoid heavily scented soaps and perfumes.

SOURCES: MedlinePlus: Insect Bites and Stings; Food and Drug Administration: Beware of Bug Bites and Stings; Opens new window National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: Lyme Disease Opens new window

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Skin care: 5 tips for healthy skin

 

Good skin care — including sun protection and gentle cleansing — can keep your skin healthy and glowing.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Don’t have time for intensive skin care? You can still pamper yourself by acing the basics. Good skin care and healthy lifestyle choices can help delay natural aging and prevent various skin problems. Get started with these five no-nonsense tips.

One of the most important ways to take care of your skin is to protect it from the sun. A lifetime of sun exposure can cause wrinkles, age spots and other skin problems — as well as increase the risk of skin cancer.

For the most complete sun protection:

  • Use sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you’re swimming or perspiring.
  • Seek shade. Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Wear protective clothing. Cover your skin with tightly woven long-sleeved shirts, long pants and wide-brimmed hats. Also consider laundry additives, which give clothing an additional layer of ultraviolet protection for a certain number of washings, or special sun-protective clothing — which is specifically designed to block ultraviolet rays.

Smoking makes your skin look older and contributes to wrinkles. Smoking narrows the tiny blood vessels in the outermost layers of skin, which decreases blood flow and makes skin paler. This also depletes the skin of oxygen and nutrients that are important to skin health.

Smoking also damages collagen and elastin — the fibers that give your skin strength and elasticity. In addition, the repetitive facial expressions you make when smoking — such as pursing your lips when inhaling and squinting your eyes to keep out smoke — can contribute to wrinkles.

In addition, smoking increases your risk of squamous cell skin cancer. If you smoke, the best way to protect your skin is to quit. Ask your doctor for tips or treatments to help you stop smoking.

Daily cleansing and shaving can take a toll on your skin. To keep it gentle:

  • Limit bath time. Hot water and long showers or baths remove oils from your skin. Limit your bath or shower time, and use warm — rather than hot — water.
  • Avoid strong soaps. Strong soaps and detergents can strip oil from your skin. Instead, choose mild cleansers.
  • Shave carefully. To protect and lubricate your skin, apply shaving cream, lotion or gel before shaving. For the closest shave, use a clean, sharp razor. Shave in the direction the hair grows, not against it.
  • Pat dry. After washing or bathing, gently pat or blot your skin dry with a towel so that some moisture remains on your skin.
  • Moisturize dry skin. If your skin is dry, use a moisturizer that fits your skin type. For daily use, consider a moisturizer that contains SPF.

A healthy diet can help you look and feel your best. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. The association between diet and acne isn’t clear — but some research suggests that a diet rich in fish oil or fish oil supplements and low in unhealthy fats and processed or refined carbohydrates might promote younger looking skin. Drinking plenty of water helps keep your skin hydrated.

Uncontrolled stress can make your skin more sensitive and trigger acne breakouts and other skin problems. To encourage healthy skin — and a healthy state of mind — take steps to manage your stress. Get enough sleep, set reasonable limits, scale back your to-do list and make time to do the things you enjoy. The results might be more dramatic than you expect.

Jan. 12, 2018

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